Xbox 360

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Disclosure: 30lives received a review copy of The Evil Within from Bethesda Softworks.

The Evil Within_20141013014022It amazes me how much goodwill Capcom has managed to piss away nine years after releasing Resident Evil 4—a game that (deservedly) sits on every videogame enthusiast’s all-time top five. After releasing two lackluster sequels, a couple more middling spin-offs, and about half a dozen ports, it’s safe to say that we’re all ready for this series to ride off into the sunset (hah! thought I’d make a zombie joke, didn’t you?), at least for the time being.

As cliched as this may sound, The Evil Within is a true return-to-form for the series; albeit one produced under a different moniker, for a different company, and with an entirely different cast of characters. The essence stays the same however, as TEW is directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami under his new development studio Tango Gameworks. It’s no small coincidence that the series started slipping as soon as Mikami released his reins; and if anything this game proves that Mikami can produce excellence without being constrained by Resident Evil’s now-convoluted mythos.

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Messy!

It is painfully clear however that Mikami has some sort of affinity for policework (and vaguely hispanic avatars): your protagonist Sebastian Castellanos starts off as an unassuming investigator that somehow winds up in a city filled with grotesque zombie-like creatures (wink), creepy raven-haired kids, and of course: a chainsaw-wielding brute set to tear you to pieces for some reason. I always assume it’s because you banged his sister. You never mess with a man’s sister. Anyway, Sebastian and friends find themselves in this twisted environ and feverishly attempt to escape, and of course are met by exceedingly-absurd opposition from not only the ugly creatures that populate their coordinates, but—only a spoiler if you’re an absolute idiot—also themselves. If you haven’t gathered from the game’s title (or hell, even the Japanese title Psycho Break), a good chunk of the game is dedicated to questioning the human condition; yours and your comrades.

For anyone who’s seen a horror movie from the last fifteen years, The Evil Within’s narrative may feel like predictable, run-off-the-mill pap. I’ll concede that point and fire back that its way better than 90% of the garbage most of us have to wade through. (without a skip button!)

Instead of simply relying on horror tropes for quick scares, The Evil Within also features more contemporary chills: you’ll see a lot of non-sequitur scenes in this game, much in the vein of Alan Wake or Deadly Premonition, except far more unsettling.  For instance, a madhouse door leads into a field of sunflowers… But why? Without spoiling too much, at that point in the game, you’re already questioning every single wrench the game throws at you, a sense of helplessness that I haven’t felt in a videogame since Capcom’s own Haunting Ground. (say, whatever happened to that game?)

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A fair warning to all the s-a-w-f-t gamers out there, softened by eighth-generation console trappings: this game is hard.  Harkening back to the first Resident Evil, weapons and ammo are in scarce supply. You essentially have five guns in the entire game, and a pretty badass multi-functional crossbow, but none of them are of much use as you’re probably going to spend the majority of the game scampering around to avoid enemies and find what little scraps of ammunition or curative items the game provides throughout each of the fifteen chapters. Hey, the genre is called survival-horror, ain’t it? Its tough, but fair, a quality that I found endearingly old-school.

That’s not to say that the game completely lacks modern game design niceties: of course the game offers an (optional) upgrade system, one that is fueled by “green gel” (pause) that you find hidden throughout each of the acts. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the game as it felt to me that there was a real risk and reward system at play here: given that

Everything has to be a god damned Metroidvania nowadays, huh?

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Its not all sunshine and sunflowers however: at times I found the game’s reliance on trial-and-error—especially during boss battles—to be incredibly frustrating, further compounded by the fact that the game is inexorably unoptimized, with long loading times cropping up everywhere; puzzling because the game installs on first load and seems to page from my system’s hard drive a lot. .

Alas, these are but small complaints in the grand scheme of things. The Evil Within is the Resident Evil 4 sequel y’all have been pining for. And even if the game aspired to be nothing but that, I can dig it.

Weakest release week ever! Boooo!

But I would suggest you get OlliOlli if nothing else (given you have a PS Vita).

 

NO NEW RELEASES

 

Lucifer Ring (PSone Import/PSN)

OlliOlli (PS Vita/PSN)

 

Dead Rising 3 – Operation Broken Eagle (DLC)

 

Insurgency (PC/Steam)

Kickbeat Steam Edition (PC/Steam)

Spelunky

Developer: Mossmouth, Bill Software

Publisher: Mossmouth

Available for: PS3 (Aug 2013), PS Vita (Aug 2013), Xbox 360 (2012), PC (2009), Steam (2013)

Reviewed: PS3 and PS Vita version

Spelunky is a game that takes you deep into a deep magical cave filled with treasure and wonders. But don’t let that fairytale premise get to you. If you underestimate this gem of a game from developer Mossmouth, this tough and sometimes controller-hurling platformer will bury you alive.

Randomly generated levels are the backbone mechanic of Spelunky. The genius of it is even though they are all random, every component of the levels seem to work together like clockwork. Unfortunately, they are all working together towards the goal of killing you. They will achieve that goal many times. True story: I died 90 times before I even got a glimpse of the next main area.

Dying in the game can’t be more hardcore. Finger twitched on the jump button while traversing some spikes because of that sneaky spider? It’s all over. When you bite the dust, you start from the beginning of the game (unless you unlock a shortcut), all the money you’ve been saving up for items, including the items you already have, go poof! All gone.

The game will not reward you with tangible power-ups or anything of the like. You use the knowledge you gained to help you on your next foray into the caverns. The aforementioned spikes for example, you will soon learn that walking through them is harmless and will take care that your finger does not stray to the jump button or it’s gonna be spelunker-kebab time. It’s essentially learning from your mistakes and observing how things work so your next try will be more successful but you can’t just memorize everything because of the levels are all random. Genius.

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Rescuing a damsel in distress gives you one more life point for the next level.

You always start with four bombs and four ropes. These help you traverse the levels to suit your needs. Bombs are useful to blast a path to a goal — be it an item/treasure or the exit to the level. The rope enables you to get to hard to reach places or avoid falling to your death. Other items or more of your basic items can be found from crates and pots but the more unique items, like gripping gloves that enables you to climb walls, are sold via a shopkeeper who appears randomly within the levels. There are also other trinkets like stones and bones that you can use in a number of ways like triggering a trap or throwing to kill an enemy when your trusty whip can’t do the job (square button).

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The game’s main trapping is the Adventure mode. This can be played single-player or multiplayer co-op. The PS Vita shines with multiplayer because each player have their own screen and can go wherever they want in the level as opposed to having to stay on the same screen when played on a TV or monitor using multiple controllers. I haven’t tried multiplayer yet so I can’t say anything about it in this review.

Purchasing Spelunky on PSN entitles you to both the PS3 and PS Vita versions (Cross-Buy). The two versions are compatible to play together for multiplayer. I forgot to mention that the multiplayer modes in Spelunky are local only. No online for a game like this is a missed opportunity in my opinion but being able to play this on the go on my PS Vita is a really good trade-off for lack of online.

Spelunky has been available for the PC and from the Xbox Live Marketplace for quite some time now but the PSN version, specifically the PS Vita one is the version to get if you have the system. With how the game plays, you would want to play as much of it as possible to get good at it. And believe me, getting good at it feels awesome.

The Good Stuff:

Challenging gameplay — Game will keep you on your toes all the time. Dying is a learning experience.

Awesome risk-reward system — Trying things out and learning how to tackle various situations is very satisfying. You start every do-over with more knowledge to go further.

Randomly generated levels keeps the game fresh everytime — You can’t just memorize the game so you will have to rely on your experience and skill.

Playing it on anywhere on the PS Vita — Spelunky anywhere. Hellz Yeah.

Cross-Buy and Cross-Play — Buying Spelunky on PSN gets you both PS3 and Vita versions and they can play together. Aww…

The Bad Smelly Pit:

No Online Multiplayer — This is a missed opportunity. You would think being a game that has been out for years now (original PC version was released 2009) and has co-op, they would’ve added online for the 2013 versions. But nooooooooo.

No Big Bosses — I’m not sure if this game needs them, but I love fighting big bosses. So yeah. lol

Things That Could Swing Either Way:

High Difficulty — I love challenging games but believe it or not there are people who don’t! OH MY!

In Closing:

Spelunky‘s challenging gameplay is geared towards the classic core gamer. Try it out if you think you are up to the challenge. Countless hours of fun (and dying) awaits you.